Dow recognized that it is often challenging for employees to see the impact that their day to day job has on the overall sustainability performance of the company. As such, Dow needed to find a way to bridge this gap and mobilize employees at the individual level as part of redefining the role of business in society at a corporate level.  Erica Ocampo, Sustainability Strategy Manager (Consumer Solutions), worked with the Erb Institute, the University of Michigan’s business-sustainability partnership between the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability, to develop an interactive and personalized executive education program.

Erica Ocampo, opined “I was very happy to find the right partner with the Erb Institute. It was particularly exciting to see their ability to take our initial ideas to the next level by bringing together a multidisciplinary team of experts from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, School for Environment and Sustainability and the Ford School of Public Policy.”  Dow and Erb — together with Ross Executive Education — collaborated on the design of a 4-day training which provided an overview of the history, trends, strategies and immediate challenges on key environmental, social and policy fronts.

Erica’s goals for the Sustainability Academy were:

  1.  First, to ensure employees left the program empowered with the new sustainability knowledge and tools acquired,
  2.  Second, to understand how sustainability connects to everything they do at the company, and
  3.  Lastly, to equip them with the right network, tools and mindset that will allow them to address sustainability challenges germane to their spheres of influence.

In July, 2017, 35 Dow employees, totaling eleven teams, arrived at the Ross School of Business after having earned their spot on the inaugural Sustainability Academy cohort from among over 100 nominated applicants.  Each team was assigned a project related to one of Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals.  Teams are tasked to implement on a six-month timeframe, investing up to 20% of their regular work schedule. The program was kicked off with an address by Neil Hawkins, Corporate VP and Chief Sustainability Officer who impressed upon the participants the importance and urgency of commitment to Dow’s “Footprint, Handprint and Blueprint.”

The Footprint is what Dow considers to be the sustainability impact they can control directly within their “fence line”, while the Handprint considers the impact of Dow’s products and solutions outside of their direct purviewgates.  The Blueprint is a bold and ambitious step that fosters collaborations not only between Dow, its’ suppliers and its’ customers, but also with government, NGO’s, and academia to foster the type of impact that contributes to the greater well-being of our society.

We are nearing the six-month follow-up and report out. The Erb Institute has kept the process on track; adding two follow-up webinars to keep participants engaged and to answer questions as the project teams began rolling up their sleeves.  We are excited to see the results, and begin work with a second cohort at Dow Sustainability Academy in January.